Civil Rights Complaint for Providence's Kennedy Plaza Redesign

The state's plan to dismantle and reorganize its busiest bus plaza faces allegations of civil rights violations.

February 17, 2021, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


ESB Professional / Shutterstock

A group of transit and environmental justice activists has filed a Title VI Civil Rights Act complaint against Rhode Island's Department of Transportation, reports Christian MilNeil. The plaintiffs argue that the Department's plans to dismantle downtown Providence's Kennedy Plaza, Rhode Island's biggest transit hub, would take valuable resources away from communities of color and amount to a violation of civil rights.

The suing organizations, Grow Smart Rhode Island and the South Providence Neighborhood Association, claim that the "deeply flawed and harmful plan by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT)" would "virtually eliminate the central bus hub in downtown Providence," harming Providence transit riders who are majority (53%) people of color. Although publicly available plans are vague, some documents mention a smaller, relocated bus transfer hub, new mini-hubs a quarter-mile away from the current location, and a major reorganization of RIPTA's bus routes.

President of the South Providence Neighborhood Association Dwayne Keys claims that the renovation would "make Kennedy Plaza a kind of tourist attraction" rather than improve transit for the people who already use it on a daily basis. According to the complaint, dismantling the plaza would cause disruptions, create longer commute times, and eliminate access to shelters and restrooms for bus riders, amounting to an effort to remove transit riders from Kennedy Plaza.

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